Many coffee lovers wonder whether ground coffee goes bad. Some people argue that coffee grounds can last for years, especially when stored in the freezer. However, this is not entirely true.
Many coffee aficionados can easily tell the difference between a brew prepared with fresh grounds and a cup of Joe brewed with grounds that have been stored for several months. However, not everyone may be able to tell the difference.
So do coffee grounds go bad? In this article, we will tell you whether ground coffee can go bad and the best way to prolong its shelf life.
How Long Do Coffee Grounds Last?
The exact shelf life of coffee grounds varies depending on numerous factors. The main variables that determine its longevity are the overall quality of the beans used, the storage method, and its best by date.
Just like how roasted beans go bad, ground coffee also goes bad. The roasting process usually eliminates the likelihood of contaminants getting into the coffee grounds. The main reason for this is that roasting beans reduces their moisture content. With reduced moisture, there is a reduced likelihood of bacteria or mold growing on the coffee grounds. That is why ground coffee should not be exposed to moisture.
As ground coffee ages over time, its flavor compounds disappear. While aged coffee is still safe to drink, it is not very tasty. Essentially, coffee grounds have a shelf life of 3 to 5 months when stored properly at room temperature. They can last for about 2 years when frozen properly without opening the package.
How to Tell Whether Coffee Grounds Have Gone Bad
There are two circumstances that tell you it is time to discard your coffee grounds. One of the circumstances is where the ground coffee has gone bad. It is likely to go bad when moisture, humidity, or water gets into the storage container.
Moisture or water results in mold. If your ground coffee shows signs of mold, it is time to discard it. Also, if the grounds are already wet even when they do not show any mold, it is time to discard them. If the grounds look okay and smell good after sniffing them, you can safely use them to brew coffee.
The second circumstance that tells you it is time to throw away your coffee grounds is when they lose their flavor and taste stale. However, many people cannot tell that the coffee has lost flavor by only looking at it, not unless you have kept it for an extremely long period. In that case, it may change color from deep black to light brown.
You can use your sense of smell to test whether your coffee grounds are past their freshness. If the coffee lacks the kind of lovely aroma it had some time back, then it is likely stale. In that case, it will not have the rich coffee flavor that comes with a fresh brew. If you are not sure, brew with some of the grounds and taste the coffee. If it does not taste fresh, discard it.
How to Store Coffee Grounds
If you have bought fresh whole beans, it is advisable to keep them whole. Only grind the amount of beans you want to use when brewing. Also, only grind the beans shortly before grinding. If you grind them too early, they will be exposed to unfavorable elements such as oxygen, heat, and light. Hence, they will lose their flavor more quickly. Ground coffee has a larger surface area than whole beans, hence the increased exposure to unfavorable elements.
However, buying pre-ground coffee is more convenient for many coffee lovers. You will find it quicker to brew with pre-ground coffee. Thus, if you must use pre-ground coffee, you should store it properly. The best method of storing ground coffee is to keep it in an airtight container. Place the container away from light, heat, and moisture.
When you keep ground coffee away from moisture, it will retain its natural flavor compounds longer. Preferably, use a glass jar with a tight seal, such as a mason jar. You can also use any other airtight kitchen storage container. If you do not have a tightly sealing container, wrap the coffee bag tightly. Then secure it with tape or a rubber band.
While you may store ground coffee in your freezer to make it last longer, it is not the best way for storing ground coffee. If you remove frozen ground coffee repeatedly and freeze it back, it will absorb moisture. Consequently, it will introduce a cardboard kind of taste to your brew. Thus, you will have an unpleasant coffee drinking experience.
Also, ground coffee is soft and porous. It can easily absorb foreign aromas in the freezer. As a result, your cup of Joe will have the taste of the smells that linger in your freezer. Thus, frozen coffee leftovers may brew coffee with a funky taste.
If you purchase a bulk supply of ground coffee and you want it to remain fresh for a longer time, freeze it in freezer bags. Divide it into small portions for each freezer bag. Preferably, put enough ground coffee for a week’s brewing in each freezer bag. That way, you will only remove a single bag at a time or as needed.
Ground coffee does not go bad so long as it is stored properly. It can only go bad when moisture gets into the coffee package or storage container. In that case, it will develop mold and become unsafe for consumption. Hence, get rid of it. When properly stored, ground coffee lasts indefinitely. However, if your coffee starts tasting funny after prolonged storage, it is still safe to drink it, only that it has gone stale. In this case, it is up to you to decide whether to discard the stale coffee grounds or continue using them.